BBC News Online – 2004-06-18 09:34:33
(June 18, 2004) — A renegade militia commander has taken control of a provincial capital in Afghanistan, causing the governor to flee amid heavy fighting. Hundreds of troops of Abdul Salaam Khan attacked Chaghcharan, capital of central Ghor province, on Thursday.
Ghor’s deputy governor and its police chief both told the BBC four people had died in the fighting. The battle followed disagreement over a role for the disgruntled commander in the local administration.
The deputy governor, who was speaking from outside the town, told the BBC’s Charles Haviland that at least 17 people were wounded and that residents were leaving the town in panic.
A provincial police commander said the fighting involved rockets, mortar and artillery fire and lasted all afternoon on Thursday.
The police chief said Commander Khan had initiated the fighting after his men beat up a central government delegation visiting to mediate after weeks of tension.
The governor had fled to the main western city of Herat and Commander Khan now controlled Chaghcharan, the police chief said. The deputy governor said government forces were preparing to re-take the town.
United States military aircraft have been overflying the city. Reports from the area say there had been weeks of factional fighting over positions in the local administration.
Commander Khan had refused to disarm his militia unless he was given a role. Our correspondent says the slow pace of militia disarmament, which the government and the United Nations are overseeing, is one of the biggest hazards on Afghanistan’s path to democracy.
This week, while visiting the United States, President Hamid Karzai urged more international funding for this demobilisation, saying the militias continued to oppress Afghans and challenge law and order.
In April, the governor of north-western Faryab province was forced to flee when warlord General Rashid Dostum took control of the capital. Afghan forces were sent to regain control.